New restaurants at St. John Marketplace

A few weeks ago, it seemed like the Marketplace was becoming a ghost town for retail and restaurants.  La Plancha had bailed to the former Paradiso spot; Baked in the Sun was loving closer to town, and the gym business had closed.

But with winter, there are green shoots at the Marketplace.

John Ferrigno of Zozo's has plans to open an upscale deli, serving  lunch and dinner.

The La Plancha guys still have a lease on their old space, and they're becoming a 'chain' by opening another spot there.  It'll be called the Black Sand Bistro – 'bistro' style food and drinks.

Finally, Lonestar Taqueria's on the second floor serving up tastes of Tex-Mex.

Don't forget, Happy Fish is still there; sushi and martinis for all!  And Papaya Cafe, on the first floor, offers coffee, beverages, and pastries.

‘Flavors’ a tasty treat at the Westin

DessertsA crowd of several hundred locals, snow birds, and transplants partied well into the night Saturday at the annual Rotary Club fundraiser, Flavors.  The event supports college scholarship funds awarded by the St. John organization.

Dozens of the island's restaurants and bars are the centerpiece of the evening, competing for honors by serving appetizer-sized samples of their best offerings.

Flavors is a nearly year-long project for its Rotary Club members and organizers.  The effort is lead by Katherine Steinborn of St. John's Katie Lady Catering with lots of help from Paul Kessock Jr. of the West Indies Corp. on St. Thomas, the major spirits distributor in the territory.

The photographs and information about the award winners accompanying this article are all courtesy of wedding photographer-par-excellence Bob Schlesinger.  He and his wife, Karin, operate Tropical Focus Photography and you can see samples of their work here (weddings) and here (family portraits).

Flavors' prize winners in the various categories represented restaurants both new and old.









Asolare, the People's Choice Award winner, with a 'close second' by the Westin.

On the other end of the spectrum, a Bar Food award went to the island's newest place, Castaways, which opened recently in space formerly occupied by Duffy's Love Shack and Crazy Crackers. It was honored for a grilled tuna with coconut curry conch confit.

In one of the new categories, Mixology, Happy Fish won, followed by Asolare and High Tide.  All three of the winners' entries featured Kettle One vodka.


























The evening's winners:


  • East West Catering – Lobster and shrimp potsticker with Japanese ponzu sauce and sweet Thai chili sauce
  • Westin – Pan seared sea scallops with wild mushroom risotto , white truffle crème fraiche and local greens
  • Tap Room – Duck Confit – purple potato chip, cherry port reduction, blue cheese


  • Asolare – Beef tenderloin with mashed potatoes, asparagus with lemon grass and soy demiglace.  Seared scallop with local pumpkin puree, house cured bacon with port and chili emulsion
  • Banana Deck – Chili rub grilled shrimp with barbeque hollandaise sauce (served with chilled cucumber soup)
  • Happy Fish – Red curry duck, braised in a red coconut curry sauce with white rice

Bar Food:

  • Tap Room – Pulled Pork Sliders – bacon savory succotash, parsnip crème. They cheer their winning by doing beer shots
  • Mojo’s – Hummus, chicken and bacon slider, chili
  • Castaways – Grilled tuna sashimi on brioche with coconut curry conch confit


  • Westin – A large selection including a lemon grass crème Brule and raspberry Chambord (sp chocolate truffle with choice of coconut, macadamia nut, heath bar, pecans, roasted tri-citrus almonds
  • Café Roma – tiramisu


  • Happy Fish – Summer and Spice: Kettle One with fresh tamarind, lemon and chai featuring a citron Kettle One agave nectar reduction.
  • Asolare – Wild Card: Kettle One with lemon grass, coconut, cardoman (spice gives the drink its name) with ginger bear
  • High Tide – Maho Mule – Kettle One with lemon grass, tamarind, lime juice all shaken then some ginger bear

Hinds Restaurant closed

Another great St. John restaurant has died.  Blame a terrible location, not the chef.

Hinds Walter Hinds has closed his business after vtwo years in the old Tage space, (Tage died, too!) across the street from the Sprauve School and Winston Wells ball field. Hinds previously was head chef at another fine dining restaurant in Cruz Bay, the Stone Terrace – also closed.

For many people, Hinds' unquestioned skill in the kitchen could not overcome the noise from tricked out, black-windowed, boom-boxed SUVs which cruised past Hinds' open porch during the dinner hours.

Fattycrab No word on what Hinds will do next (private catering, villa dinners, etc.?) but Pia, a local, posted on TripAdvisor that a New York City operation plans to open a branch in the space. 

The new restaurant is called Fatty Crab, which in its two Manhattan locations, specializes in a tasty Malaysian menu featuring fresh ramen, duck leg confit, duck jus, chili sauce, and cincalok.

  • Fatty Crab's Facebook page is here
  • Rave reviews for the late Hinds Restaurant here


Plan for new gas station, quick-stop store

Plans are afoot to build a gas station on Centerline Road.  

Developer Guilderoy Sprauve is asking for a zoning change to allow him to build the station and a convenience store on land which used to be the home of a concrete plant and is now home to Love City Home and Garden Center. 

Sprauve was quoted by the St. John Source saying everything is in place to move ahead with the project. "We have the funding," he said.

There will be an attendant on duty at the station, even  though it will be self service.  You'll also be on your own at the C-store.  Sprauve apparently intends to install vending machines.  He said the store will be "robotic."

Of course a new gas station would be helpful on the island.  E&C Service in Cruz Bay is the only place to gas up now; the Dominio station in Coral Bay is still closed with no word when, or if it will reopen.

  • Read the Source story here

Blue Tang: #2 and proud of it!

Longtime readers know that News of St. John began as a not-so-subtle effort to encourage rentals of our home on the island.  There's a lot of competition for rentals and I thought the site would help.  It has. It is the oldest and largest Web site with news about St. John.

Ext_day_pool So it was with surprise and gratitude that, while mousing around TripAdvisor.com the other day, I found that Blue Tang was ranked as the #2 most popular rental on the island, with a 4 1/2 out of 5 stars ranking, too.  Shocked … thankful … happy.

Blue Tang ranked so well because of the reviews people who have stayed at the house were kind enough to post.  A few of their comments:

  • "A peaceful, relaxing, romantic honeymoon at Blue Tang."
  • "Blue Tang rocks."
  • "Best vacation we've ever taken."
  • "Awesome views and location."

I have to admit that each time we visit Blue Tang and read through the Guest Books, we are often moved to tears at the kind things people say about the house as they recount the wonderful time they had on the island and at our place.

If you're headed for St. John, I hope you'll consider our home, too.

Frank Barnako, aka The Inquiring Iguana

New Yorker criticizes Maho Bay room service

You can't make this stuff up.

A guest at the Maho Bay Camps blasted the eco-resort on Yelp

Vasyl F. of Rego Park, New York said, "This is the worst hotel I've ever stayed in."

The Queens borough resident said the description of Maho he read on Expedia.com did not meet his expectations.

"No ocean view rooms … and no mountain view … they charge even to lock your door … tents are 30 years old and leaking, and cracks in the floors are so wide that cockroaches and lizards are flooding the dwelling. Restaurant is extremely dirty and the food is all from cans and is made in China."

As for being an 'eco-resort," Vasyl said, "They just don't repair the hotel and don't clean the territory, besides all their furniture, tables, plates, glasses and many more things are made of cheap toxic plastic which is definitely not eco-friendly."

In rebuttal, anyone who knows anything about Maho Bay also knows that Vasyl's expectations were way off the mark.  But, he may not be alone, given what The Inquiring Iguana found when he slithered to Expedia's Maho entry.

For starters, Maho describes itself as a three star "Coral Bay hotel with a private beach."  Misleading, some could say. The Expedia description of Maho is also, shall we say, 'generous.'

Maho's 'amenities' are listed (see below), suggesting the rustic resort, with accommodations from $80/night, could compete with villas. (It's the Select Comfort mattress that really caught The Iguana's attention.)

AmenitiesThe Iguana understands how Expedia wants Maho to present itself in the best light.  But, he also wonders how a smart guy from Queens could make the assumption that he was staying a a luxury-like hotel when the Expedia site reservation screen offers "tent cottage."  That's a pretty good clue to what he's going to get.

  • Vasyl F.'s review of Maho Bay on Yelp is here.
  • Maho Bay on Expedia is here.

Go on vacation, bring home a new skill

Most people know Maho Bay Campground as a laid-back, environment-friendly, low-stress place to relax. It's not so well known as an art school.  Yet, that's what it is, too, especially this year with a re-energized curriculum.

StokingkilnWeekly classes are designed for island visitors, generally two hours long.  They includes Kids and Family Potter's Wheel, Kids or Adults Clay Bells and Whistles, and mask making.  Each promises to get you out the door with something you've created.

There are extended classes, also.  Each meets for several weeks, three hours at a time.  They include Relief and 3-D Sculpture, Glazed Earthenware, and Off the Wheel Techniques

There are also glass blowing classes, with an emphasis on art you can make from recycled materials.

Early in May, Maho featured Steven Branfman as the Clay artist-in-residence. 

Blues Festival 2011!

2011_StJohnBluesFestival This announcement from Steve Simon:

"Frank, the 9th Annual Johnnie Walker St. John Blues Festival will be held from Wednesday, March 16th through Sunday, March 20th."

Planning to attend? Stay at our Blue Tang villa.  BlueTang.vi.

FRIDAY, MARCH 18th, 2011
Albert Cummings, Candye Kane,
and Grady Champion

SATURDAY, MARCH 19th, 2011
Curtis Salgado, Reba Russell,
and Moreland & Arbuckle

More info at http://stevesimonpresents.com/stj_blues_festival.html

St. John: Hurricane update 10:00 a.m. EDT


Earl slowed its forward motion overnight, delaying the arrival of its fury about 12 hours.  Now the National Hurricane Center says the center of the storm will pass northeast of St. John at about 6 p.m.

CaribStorm.com's "How Close" tool says the outer edge will be 70 miles away.  The storm's force is diminished from what it could have been. Earl is expected to be a Category 2 (96-110 mph) when it blows by.

Power's off in Cruz Bay.  The St. John Spicecam quit transmitting at about 7 a.m.  This is the last picture.  Notice it's blurry. The camera was getting blown around.  A surprising number of sailboats are still moored in the harbor.  How many will be damaged and end up in the Beach Bar, literally? (http://www.stjohnspice.com/stjohnspicecam.htm)

Fish Bay's Karen Radtke Facebooks: "What is it that dog's sense? Cagney is super hyper this morning." Karen's in training for the Susan G Komen 3Day for the Cure walk in Tampa Oct 29-31st.

Walter Hinds apparently hosted an all night hurricane preparedness party at his restaurant in Cruz Bay.  Martinis and more.  He posted, "It's 6:10 am and I am sitting on the deck of Hinds with some friends and I am holding a beverage (a martini). OK, now it is 7am & there is an hurricane in effect and the school bell across the street just rang…..PRICELESS."

CaribStorm's Dave posted this at dawn. "I have to go to work as one of our clients (a business owner) decided he wanted his hurricane shutters this morning. Nothing like waiting till the last minute and putting others at risk."

Gonna be a close call from Tropical Storm Earl

Earl From the National Weather Service, via WeatherUnderground.com.

  • "Earl has become better organized this morning … All of the intensity guidance shows additional intensification during the next few days.

  • "On the forecast track … the center of Earl could approach the northern Leeward Islands on Sunday night.

  • "Earl could become a hurricane by tonight or Sunday. Tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 85 miles…140 km mainly to the north of the center."

StormCarib.com's "How Close Will it Come" tool now shows Earl's winds within 175 miles of St. John.